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Hi I'm Adriene Hill and I'm Jacob Clifford and welcome to Crash Course Economics.
Today we're going to talk about international trade. So we all know our stuff is from everywhere.
Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, China again,
but what does it actually tell us about the global economy or the US economy?
And who's is benefitting from all this trade. And who's gonna clean all this up?
[Theme Music]
International trade is the lifeblood of the global economy. Basically when a good
or service is produed in, let's say, Brazil and sold to a person or business in the
US, that counts as an export for Brazil and as an import from US. As you might
expect, the United States is the world's largest importer because Americans love
their stuff. In 2014 Americans import over two trillion dollars worth of stuff,
like oil cars and clothing from countries all over the world. And if you
look around your local big box store, it feels like everything is made in China.
And we do import a lot of things from China but in terms of both imports, and
exports our largest trading partner's not China, it's Canada. The US and Canada trade
over six hundred billion dollars worth of goods and services each year.
The US imports a lot from Canada but exports almost as much. In fact, the United States is
the world's second-largest exporter. It sells high-tech things like
pharmaceuticals, jet turbines, generators and aircraft to countries all over the world.
It also exports intellectual goods like Kanye West albums and Pixar movies as
well as bulk commodities like corn, oil and cotton. The annual difference between
a country's exports and imports is called net exports. So if Brazil exports 250
billion dollars worth of goods and imports 200 billion that its net exports
are fifty billion. That means Brazil has a trade surplus. In 2014, net exports in
the usmore negative 722 billion dollars. That's what you call a trade deficit.
Some people assume that having a trade deficit is inherently bad. Why does the
US import nearly all of clothing? Why can't we clote ourselves?
US producers could easily make more than enough clothing to keep all of us
dressed. But they don't because they focus on other things that they're better at
producing. The US buys clothes from other countries because we can get them
cheaper than if we made them here. This is the value of international trade. It
doesn't make sense to make everything on your own if you can trade with other
countries that have a comparative advantage. It's worth mentioning here
that these savings sometimes come with other costs, especially for the people
who are producing these goods overseas. Unsafe and unfair working conditions, and
environmental degradation can be ugly side effects of
internnational trade. And we're gonna talk about that. For today though let's get a handle
on trade deficits. It can seem like exporting would make a country wealthy
while importing would make it poor. After all, if we buy products produced in other
countries than were shipping jobs overseas, right? Well only to an extent.
Imagine that I have a choice of buying an American made TV or a TV made in
Malaysia. Because of lower labor costs in Malaysia the imported TV cost 0 less
than the American made one. So I buy the imported TV. That may cost jobs at a TV
factory in the US but I saved 0 by buying the imported TV. And what am I
gonna do with those 0? I'm gonna spend them on something I couldn't have
afforded if I bought the US TV. Like maybe taking my

family out to a baseball game
or to a restaurant. That creates jobs in those industries that wouldn't have
existed if I'd bought the more expensive TV. Economic theory suggests that
international trade reshuffles jobs from one sector of the economy to another, like
from the TV factory to the restaurant. But the quality of these jobs can be
markedly different. The guy assembling TVs at the US factory was probably
making a lot more at his manufacturing job before he got reshuffled to the burrito
assembly line at Chipotle. Which is just to say all this is really complicated
and what is good in the aggregate is not necessarily good for individuals. For
example, look at the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA. It was
established in 1994 to drop trade barriers between Canada, the United
States and Mexico. Critics point out that NAFTA significantly increased US trade
deficits and they say it decreased the number of manufacturing jobs in many
states, as companies moved out of the US. Proponents of free trade point out that
the US economy boomed in the 1990's, creating millions of jobs including manufacturing jobs, and that free trade
has decreased the prices of all sorts of consumer goods, from vegetables to cars. So despite the fact
that some workers and industries were clearly hurt, economist would tell us
NAFTA's had a net positive impact on all three countries. By the way, you know
Thought café, the makers of the Thought Bubble? They're Canadian. These
graphics are imported. The debate over the value of specific trade agreements
continues. But it's unlikely that the world's largest economies will return to
strict protectionism. Protectionist policy, like placing high tariffs on
imports and limiting the number of foreign goods, usually hurts an economy
more than it helps. There are now several organizations designed to eradicate
protectionism, most notably the World Trade Organization or WTO. The WTO has been
effective in getting countries to agree to specific rules and help settle
disputes but it's also been accused of favouring rich countries and not doing
enough to protect the environment or workers. Trade between countries depends
on the demand for a country's goods, political stability and interest rates,
but one of the most important factors is exchange rates. Basically this is how
much your currency is worth when you trade it for another country's currency.
And let's engage in some foreign trade now by going to the Thought Bubble. Suppose the
US-Mexico exchange rate is 15 pesos to the dollar. If an American's on vacation in Mexico and wants to
buy some sunscreen that cost 60 pesos, they'll have to trade four dollars for pesos. Likewise if someone from
Mexico is on vacation in the US and wants to buy a t-shirt she will need to exchange 300 pesos for
dollars. Now one let's think about what happens if the exchange rate goes up to twenty
pesos per dollar. Now to buy that 50 peso sunscreen in mexico it'll cost the American
tourist instead of four. We say that the dollar has appreciated. At the same
time the Mexican tourist who wants to buy the t-shirt will need four
hundred pesos instead of 300. It works the same way with imports and exports.
When the dollar appreciates, it gets cheaper for US consumers to import
foreign goods, and US exports to other countries get more expensive. US imports
rise and export fall. On the other hand
what if the exchange rate fell to 10 pesos per dollar? Now to buy that
sunscreen, the american tourist needs . Each dollar has gotten less powerful. We
say that the dollar has depreciated.

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